Independent bottlers perform many services to whisky aficionados. First and foremost they are usually the only or major sources of single malt releases from workhorse distilleries whose owners all or most of their stock for blends. And for distilleries that do have single malt ranges of their own they offer the opportunity to taste single cask releases and malts at ages other than those at which the official releases are bottled. Finally, they sometimes offer the opportunity to taste expressions of a distillery’s malt that are outside the distillery’s official profile. This is particularly true of distilleries that are associated with sherry cask whiskies. Be it Highland Park or in this case, Aberlour, the independents have long been either the only or the only regular sources of opportunities to see what these distillates are like when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I am a big fan in general of bourbon cask Aberlour (see, for example, this and this) and so when the opportunity arose to purchase this 26 yo at a reasonable price at auction in the UK, I took it. I know nothing about this particular bottler. In fact, the only reference to Cooper’s Gold on Whiskybase is to this cask. And it appears likely that this is a cask that was bottled for a private individual who then decided to sell some of the bottles on. If you know more about the provenance of this release, do write in below.
Aberlour 26, 1989 (51.1%; Cooper’s Gold; bourbon cask 11040; from my own bottle)
Nose: Biscuity malt, toasted oak, candied lemon peel. Very nice indeed. As it sits muskier fruit emerges from below (pineapple, a bit of peach). Water pushes the oak back but makes the sweeter notes simpler and more cloying.
Palate: Everything from the nose but the oak is in the lead here and is just a bit too talkative. Nice texture and drinking strength. With time the oak begins to make room for the acid from the citrus and there’s better balance. Will the muskier fruit from the nose show up here too? Let’s see. Yes! With time and air the lemon gets sweeter and the peach begins to peek out. Let’s see if water can draw even more of it out. Alas, no. Water brings out a metallic/glassy note along with some rye—that is to say, more oak influence.
Finish: The oak dominates here as well—more gingery than tannic—getting spicier as it goes. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Well, this was not a hidden masterpiece as I’d half hoped it would be but it’s very nice indeed. The nose was my favourite part; the palate didn’t quite keep its promise. I preferred it neat though I’ll be interested to see how/if it changes as the bottle stays open. I hope Mike Colquhoun was pleased with his cask.
Rating: 86 points.